Vaqueros having a magical run through CIF playoffs

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March Madness is here a little early, and El Capitan High School is this year’s Cinderella.

The ninth-seeded Vaqueros are 2-0 in the CIF playoffs after throttling Mar Vista 69-46 in the first round and grinding out a stunning 58-55 victory against top seeded Bonita Vista Barons, securing a spot in the Division IV semifinals against Hilltop. 

March Madness is here a little early, and El Capitan High School is this year’s Cinderella.

The ninth-seeded Vaqueros are 2-0 in the CIF playoffs after throttling Mar Vista 69-46 in the first round and grinding out a stunning 58-55 victory against top seeded Bonita Vista Barons, securing a spot in the Division IV semifinals against Hilltop. 

Senior center Andy Casas is a formidable presence inside, averaging 20 points per game,  complimented by stellar three-point shooting of junior guards Kade Kygar and Bryant Irvin.

Saddled with a 10-19 record, El Capitan came to the playoffs with steep hurdles to clear. It was faced with the daunting proposition of overcoming a second round match-up against the juggernaut No. 1 seeded Barons. So far, so good.

El Capitan head coach Jason Cavazos said his team is peaking at the right time.

“This has been an interesting season for us, our talent is better than our record,” he said. “We are finally jelling as a team. The way we’re playing I feel like we could beat the Lakers, but they’re not very good this year.”

After beating the 8th seeded Mariners by 23 points, the Vaqueros were slated against Bonita Vista, fresh off a 92-29 trouncing of High Tech NC. El Capitan was well aware of the Barons’ brawn, having lost a demoralizing 56-27 game earlier in the season, where they failed to score double digits in any quarter. 

Bonita looked intent on handing another defeat as they took a six-point lead early in the second half sending the crowd into a frenetic frenzy. Vaqueros responded with a 16-3 run and held the lead until late in the fourth quarter when the game turned into a back and forth shootout.

With three minutes left in the fourth quarter El Capitan lead 47-40 and appeared to be in control when the Barons, spurred by their unflinching supporters, connected on a three-pointer, stripped the ball and then drained another three in rapid succession. After a successful Bonita Vista free throw, the game was tied 47-47, with two minutes left.  El Capitan appeared to be reeling and the capacity filled gym attempted to drown out any thoughts the Vaqueros had of pulling off an upset. 

El Capitan came down the court confronting a wall of hostile noise in search of an answer to the Baron’s recent offensive flurry. They found it waiting in the corner as they zipped the ball to Irvin who promptly hoisted a high arcing triple.

Swish.

After a defensive stop, like a case of déjà vu, Bryant connected on another three-pointer from the corner, hammering the final nail in the coffin to Bonita Vista’s season with a 58-55 victory.

An elated Bryant said he was happy to contribute, his ear-to-ear grin in stark contrast to the bummed Baron fans shuffling by.

“I was open and hoping I’d get the ball,” he said. “I thought I could make it.”

Casas said he knew the shot was going in from the moment it left Bryant’s hands. 

“He doesn’t miss in practice, ever. He’s already hit a buzzer beater for us this year so I completely trusted the ball was going in.”

With a slot in the Division IV CIF championship game hanging in the balance, the Vaqueros travel to Hilltop High School hoping to add another chapter to its magical run in the playoffs.

Coach Cavazos said his team is primed and ready to go championship hunting.

“Andy is a force inside, he’s 6’0 but he plays way bigger than that,” he said. “And if your worried about him inside we’ve got some pretty damn good shooters outside, so you have to pick and choose. Having both clicking right now makes us a tough team”

Casas agreed with his coach about his team’s prospects.

“We just beat the best team, so now we’re the best team,” said the euphoric senior. “If we play up to our potential we can win the whole thing.”

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